May 21, 2017 — Easter VI
Sermon Text — John 14:15-21
Faith and Love
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 14th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Faith and Love
Jesus said, ‘you believe in God. Believe also in Me.” He calls for faith. But I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Christ Jesus my Lord. I am by nature given to have faith in myself or to trust in men. Faith comes by hearing, hearing the message of Christ. There is no saving faith apart from the Word of God for man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Faith trusts the Word as God’s Word, not only recognizing God’s Word as truth, but receiving God’s Word as truth for me. So when Jesus says, “You believe in God believe also in Me” He is calling each and every one of us to see and know that He is our God and we are His dearly loved people.
This morning Jesus says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Last week He spoke of faith. This week He speaks of love. Faith and love go together. There is no faith without love. And those who claim faith without love or apart from love are hypocrites. Faith receives Christ’s Word and Works, love puts Christ’s Word and Works into action for God and our neighbor. Jesus’ Words to us this morning are not prescriptive. He’s not making a conditional statement as though love were necessary for salvation. No! That’s not it at all. Jesus is not Moses. The Law came through Moses. Grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ Words are not prescriptive but descriptive. He doesn’t say you “shall” keep my commandments. He says, “You will keep my commandments.” His Words this morning describe the life of one who believes in and loves Jesus. Love flows from faith. Faith comes first then comes love. Love is not of the flesh but of the Spirit. The flesh does works. Love bears fruit. Love means keeping the commandments. The world will know that you are Christ’s disciples by your love, love for Him and thus also love for your neighbors.
What does it mean that we Christians “will keep His commandments?” Note well beloved that Jesus’ words flow from our Love for Him. Love for Jesus keeps His commandments. Love keeps. That’s what love does. But this word translated “keeps” (and sometime wrongly translated “obey”) means more than that. To “keep” is to treasure, hold dear, keep sacred.” In another place Jesus says that “where your heart is there is your treasure.” In other words, what you love you keep, treasure, hold dear, keep sacred. One who loves Jesus will hold dear His commandments, His Word, His Law and His Gospel.
The world loves darkness and therefore hates the Light because its deeds were evil. Love is not simply and emotion we feel for someone or something. Love is reflected in what we do or don’t do, in what we say or don’t say. That the world loves darkness means the world not only does sin, but loves it. What you love you keep, treasure, hold dear, keep sacred. The world treasures its sin and refuses to come into the light. In other words, it refuses to repent. You cannot serve two masters, either you will hate the one and love the other or you will love the one and hate the other. Where you heart is there is your treasure. No Christian can say they love Jesus and refuse to repent. No Christian can say they believe in Jesus and hold on to their sin. No Christian loves their sin. Such a person says they believe in Jesus while at the same time lives in sin is a hypocrite. And Jesus has no good words for hypocrites.
So what does that make us? We confess to believe in Jesus and yet we still sin. In fact, “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Does that make us hypocrites? Well the world would say, yes. And not only the world but the devil and our own sinful nature say the same. Even God’s law condemns us as sinners. Because we do sin does not mean we love it – though our Old Adam often struggles with what the heart wants. Because we do sin our conscience is often plagued with guilt and shame. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Guilt and shame are part of repentance. For the Law of God was given, not as a pathway to life, not as means to being saved, but in order to kill any hope that we might have of saving ourselves. Only hypocrites fail to feel guilty for what they’ve done. Only hypocrites fail to be ashamed of their deeds. Only hypocrites are so bold as to treasure their deeds. And doing so they reveal their love and so also their false faith. It is the hypocrite who lives according to the flesh and bears no fruit. And scripture says all who live according to the flesh will die.
A Sacrificial Lord
But what do we Christians care what the world says? As Christians we are bound to what God says. What does God say? God says, “all who live according to the Spirit will live.” Your life as a Christian is not bound up in what you say and do, but what Christ says and does for you. We live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us. The world revels in its own life but as Christians your life is hidden with God in Christ.
His righteousness is your righteousness.
His life is your life.
His baptism is your baptism.
His death is your death.
His cross is your cross.
His blood is shed for you.
His life is given for you.
His passion is poured out for you.
And thus He pledges a good conscience towards God for you, in your place. For you have a sacrificial Lord, one who loves you, one who humbled Himself and gave Himself into death, even death on the cross for you. You have a God who promises to never abandon nor forsake you, for the abandonment you deserve because of your sin was already suffered by Jesus in your place. Though father and mother, those nearest and dearest to you may indeed forsake you the Lord Jesus will not. “This saying is trustworthy for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.” (2Ti 2:11-13 ESV)
A Coming Comforter for Sinners
Jesus knows the nature of our flesh, the devil and the world we live in. He knows the trials and tribulations we will face because we believe on His Name. He knows that even our own conscience will condemn us as we struggle to walk by faith and not by sight. He knows that sin will continue to rise up within us and seek to have dominion over us all our days, until our last dying breath. And so Jesus promises to ask His Father to send the Comforter to you. He promises us the Spirit of truth to remain in us and be with us.
This coming to us, remaining in, and being with us not some mystical sort of spiritual life, but is a life rooted in and founded on the reception of God’s Spirit in God’s Holy Word. For man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. All scripture is divinely inspired, God breathed, full of the Holy Spirit who comforts us with Words of grace and mercy, forgiveness, life and salvation. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God’s Word gives us the Spirit that we may live in the Spirit and walk in the light as He is in the light. In God’s Word we see because in His light we see light. In God’s Word we see what the world does not see; a loving Savior from sin, a God who promises to never forsake us, and a Spirit who empowers us to love as we have been loved. Apart from God’s Word there is only darkness and death.
Thus the conscience that is plagued with guilt and shame is comforted by God’s Word. You, whom the devil, world, and even your own sinful nature call sinner, God calls saint. God says you are redeemed, purchased and won from all sin, death, devil and hell. You are baptized! You have been crucified with Christ. You have been raised with Christ. You have been regenerated with the Holy Spirit whom God has poured out on your richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
The world looks for the Spirit in all the wrong places, in majestic works, displays of might, in miracles and mystical experiences. The world looks inward for emotional highs and spiritual ecstasies. Jesus says the world is not able to receive Him, and therefore is unable to be comforted, because the world does not see Him nor does it know Him. But you know Him, because you have received Him. You see Him working in Water and the Word. You hear His voice in the office of the ministry and the absolution given you right here in this place. You receive Him through the preaching of the Word and by the Spirit’s power you cling to Jesus the author and perfector of your faith. You know Him for by the Word He remains in you and with.
Faith and Love
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus says, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” Faith believes in God. Faith believes in Jesus. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing the Word creates and sustains faith. Faith alone saves. But faith is never alone. Faith expresses itself through love. There is no faith without love. Faith works love. Love keeps His commandments. Where your heart is there is your treasure. As Christians our greatest treasure is God’s Word. Our heart is bound to God’s Word by God’s Spirit. God’s Word is our light and our life. By it we live and move and have our whole being. For the Holy Spirit has called by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. This He does by God’s Word. God’s Word defines us and guides us. To treasure God’s Word is to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it, not just to know it as truth but to practice it in love, love towards God and love towards our neighbor. To gladly hear and learn it means to receive it. Receiving God’s Word we are receiving God’s Spirit and so also being nurtured for life in His kingdom, not a life we will someday live in heaven, but the life we now life by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself up for us. God grant us all to treasure such a life today, tomorrow, and forevermore. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!